Palm trees, tropical beach huts and sandy roadsides grace the 106.5 miles of Florida Keys Scenic Highway (US #1) connecting the world-famous island-hopping Keys to the Southern-most point of the Continental US, near the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
With the gentle turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the majestic Atlantic Ocean on the other, you will travel over forty-three bridges from Key Largo to Key West. The "Seven Mile Bridge," located at Mile Marker 50, is more than 35,000 feet in length. With more than 800 keys, most of them uninhabited, this drive offers breathtaking sights, so have your camera ready!
One of the most popular activities in the Keys is snorkeling, and there are great locations to swim with the fish all along the Florida Keys Scenic Highway. They say, "If you can swim, you can snorkel." With some basic instruction, you can be in the water observing more than 500 species of tropical fish, 47 varieties of living coral and other marine life that make up the underwater world of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), (305) 743-2437. Encompassing 2,900 square nautical miles surrounding the entire archipelago of the Florida Keys, the FKNMS stretches from Biscayne National Park, (305) 230-1100, east of Homestead on Florida's mainland, down to Key West and beyond. Several other marine sanctuaries, wildlife refuges and state parks offer beautiful scenery, recreational opportunities and access to this amazing marine world all along the way.
Follow U.S. 1 south to Key West (98 miles south of Key Largo) for a visit to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, (305) 292-6713, located at the end of Southard St. The park covers a total of 56 acres, including a National Historic Landmark fortress, which was one in a system of sea-coastal forts initiated in the 1800s to prevent hostile invasions. Take a ranger-guided tour and hear tales of its past or browse the fort on your own. Then, enjoy one of the best beaches in Key West.
While this area is known for its scenic and recreational abundance, it is also rich in culture and history. Key West was home to many literary greats including Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Robert Frost and Thornton Wilder. But the author most often associated with Key West was Ernest Hemingway, who penned For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms and To Have and Have Not during his 10 years living there. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, (305) 294-1136, is now a National Historic Landmark museum and a "must-see" location during your visit.